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FDA Confirms Asbestos in Claire's Makeup; Acknowledges Need For Regulation of Cosmetics Industry

On Tuesday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a Safety Statement and a Recall Alert after confirming the presence of asbestos in cosmetic powder makeup products marketed to young girls and teens, and sold by retailer Claire's.

The products were flagged after The U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a consumer advocacy group, issued a safety alert when independent testing revealed the presence of asbestos in the makeup. The FDA performed additional testing to confirm the findings before issuing the statement.

Samples of the following products tested positive for tremolite asbestos during FDA testing:

  • Claire’s Eye Shadows Batch No/Lot No: 08/17
  • Claire’s Compact Powder Batch No/Lot No: 07/15
  • Claire’s Contour Palette Batch No/Lot No: 04/17

Per the FDA’s Statement: Claire’s has refused to comply with the FDA’s request to issue a recall, and the agency does not have authority to mandate a recall. The FDA is therefore warning consumers not to use these products and will continue to communicate our safety concerns about them.

Claire's website states they are pulling all talc-based products from shelves “out of an abundance of caution”, but deny the accuracy of the tests claiming the results "show significant errors” and "have mischaracterized fibers in the products as asbestos." Claire’s states it conducts its own testing at independent laboratories in the European Union and the United States and claims its products are “compliant with all relevant cosmetic safety regulations.”

Last month The New York Times’ reported on the lax regulations governing the personal care industry following Reuter’s December 2018 expose about the discovery and decades long cover-up of asbestos-tainted talc in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder.

Although House and Senate members have introduced several bills over the years, corporate lobbying efforts and glaring conflicts of interests in industry trade groups have contributed to the current stalemate. Industry groups continue to balk at the idea of adding warning labels to talc-based products and have “pressured governmental agencies to refrain from listing [talc] as a carcinogen.”

The law governing the FDA’s oversight of cosmetic products, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act),has not been updated since it was first enacted in 1938. The current law does not require cosmetics to be reviewed and approved by the FDA prior to being sold to American consumers, and further limits its oversight to adequately monitor products thereafter. To be clear, there are currently no legal requirements for any cosmetic manufacturer marketing products to American consumers to test their products for safety.

In the joint statement FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and the director of the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Susan Mayne, the FDA express strong commitment to working with Congress to “modernize the outdated regulatory framework that the FDA has been operating under for more than 80 years when it comes to cosmetics” and acknowledge that “federal rules have not kept pace with the cosmetic industry’s substantial growth and a global supply chain.”

We all deserve to know what’s in our products so we can make informed decisions about whether to use them. Congress needs to act and pass a mighty federal bill demanding greater oversight to the existing unrestrained cosmetics industry.

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